The irony of Robert Kraft visiting Meek Mill in prison

Robert Kraft, one of the most powerful owners in the National Football League, took the unusual step of visiting a ra...

Posted: Apr 19, 2018 11:01 AM
Updated: Apr 19, 2018 11:01 AM

Robert Kraft, one of the most powerful owners in the National Football League, took the unusual step of visiting a rapper named Meek Mill in a state prison in Pennsylvania. The symbolism of the extremely wealthy white owner of the New England Patriots taking time to check on a young black man serving time for no good reason, because of minor parole violations, can be intoxicating.

Kraft said the right things while discussing Mill's predicament, but it's odd to see him come to the defense of a rapper he can do little for while refusing to use his status to speak on behalf of someone he can help: Colin Kaepernick.

"It makes it clear to me we have to do something with criminal justice reform," Kraft said outside the prison.

He called Mill, whose real name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, "an amazing young man" who is "very intelligent."

"It's just sad," he said. "This guy is a great guy. Shouldn't be here."

He's right, Mill shouldn't be in prison for what amounts to technical violations of a parole that stretched more than a decade, an uncommonly long time. He got into a fight and was caught popping wheelies on his motorcycle and sentenced to two to four years in prison by a judge who has been accused of being "enamored" with the rapper.

But no one should be fooled. As long as Kraft and other NFL owners continue blackballing players like Kaepernick -- who missed all of last season and has yet to be signed by a team despite being more talented and accomplished than many quarterbacks who are collecting NFL checks -- Kraft's trek to that Pennsylvania prison won't mean much. That message was underscored by the Seattle Seahawks' decision to sign a quarterback with no experience instead of keeping a scheduled meeting with Kaepernick after he reportedly didn't declare he would no longer protest.

The former 49ers quarterback, who led the team to the Super Bowl and came within a play of winning the title, has not been in trouble with the law. He was a strong player with a strong arm who did not get in trouble on or off the field.

Instead, he used his platform to raise awareness about injustice, first by quietly sitting through the singing of the National Anthem, then taking a knee after consulting with a military veteran who told him that pose showed reverence for the flag and country.

Kaepernick is a "very intelligent," "amazing young man" like Mill.

He has made the country aware of the need for criminal justice reform in a way no one else managed to do, something Kraft said he wants. Kaepernick is among the nation's most influential voices on the subject, but his treatment by the NFL is one of the league's great recent shames. After President Donald Trump called protesting NFL players a vulgar name, Kraft, who was recently deposed in Kaepernick's grievance case, said he supported the players' "right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful" -- words that ring hollower by the day.

"I know some of our players in the NFL have talked about this, and I see it firsthand; it's just wrong and we have to find a way to correct it," Kraft said about the justice system after visiting Mill.

If he was serious, he'd do more than talk and highlight a single injustice. Kraft would use his position to make it clear that no one who decides to peacefully protest to bring about the reform Kraft says he desires will be punished harshly under his watch. Given that he owns a team led by a 40-year-old quarterback and traded away the seeming heir apparent, Kraft should sign Kaepernick, which would help his football team. And it would help push for equality in the criminal justice system that Kraft seems to agree is urgently needed.

Without meaningful action, Kraft appears to be just a powerful white man who makes public gestures to befriend some members of an oppressed group while doing nothing to help them. It's not enough for a man like Kraft to visit a popular rapper in prison and say a few pretty words about the need for equality and reform. He can do more, much more. And he must.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 261167

Reported Deaths: 5713
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17561191
Hinds16687329
Harrison14050202
Rankin11102217
Jackson10729188
Lee9014143
Madison8495168
Jones6607114
Forrest6135122
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Lamar499865
Washington4904125
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Monroe3651106
Warren3649103
Union353263
Marshall352069
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Lincoln304287
Sunflower290373
Hancock288461
Tate279062
Alcorn270754
Pike268180
Itawamba266662
Scott256048
Yazoo253756
Prentiss251153
Copiah247649
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Coahoma245954
Simpson241471
Leake236167
Grenada222471
Marion220273
Covington219072
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Wayne208432
Winston205870
George203539
Newton197346
Attala196461
Tishomingo193861
Chickasaw188444
Jasper177838
Holmes171368
Clay164237
Tallahatchie155635
Stone149525
Clarke144762
Calhoun139922
Smith127725
Yalobusha121134
Walthall114037
Greene112929
Noxubee112225
Montgomery111236
Carroll106422
Lawrence105617
Perry104031
Amite100826
Webster95424
Tunica88221
Claiborne87825
Jefferson Davis87727
Benton84823
Humphreys84224
Kemper80020
Quitman7049
Franklin69617
Choctaw62513
Wilkinson59625
Jefferson56520
Sharkey44817
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
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